Erectile dysfunction (ED) can get in the way of sexual performance and pleasure so much so that it becomes as much a psychological problem as it is a physical issue.
Fortunately, impotence can be treated although it must be emphasized that each man responds in a different manner to each treatment depending on age, physical condition, and cause, among other factors.
Here are a few facts that every man – and even their partners – must know about the medical condition.
What Is Erectile Dysfunction?
Also known as impotence, erectile dysfunction is the inability to achieve and maintain an erection sufficiently strong (i.e., firm) for sex intercourse purposes.
Keep in mind that erection troubles will happen from time to time depending on several factors, such as mental stress and physical fatigue, but these should not be cause for concern.
When erection issues happen one too many times (i.e., an ongoing occurrence), then it is time to talk to your doctor despite your misgivings about discussing such a personal issue.
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What Are Its Symptoms?
The frequency, severity and duration of erection issues will differ between individuals but doctors consider the following as the most common symptoms of erectile dysfunction.
- Persistent trouble in achieving an erection
- Persistent trouble in maintaining an erection
- Reduced sexual desire
When you experience these symptoms, you are well-advised to see your doctor when you have the following factors:
- Sexual problems
You may have other penis-related concerns, such as ejaculatory dysfunction characterized by either delayed or premature ejaculation.
- Underlying health conditions
You may have an underlying health condition that aggravates your erection issues, such as heart disease, hypertension and diabetes.
Be as honest as possible about your erection-related issues as your doctor will be able to make a more effective treatment plan with more information on hand.
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What Are Its Causes?
Keep in mind that just as male sexual arousal involves a wide range of factors in a complex process involving the brain and body, erectile dysfunction also involves an issue with either the brain or body – or even both.
Doctors must then consider both physical and psychological causes when evaluating patients diagnosed with erectile dysfunction especially as both can aggravate the symptoms.
In most cases, the causes behind erectile dysfunction are physical in nature with the most common being:
- High blood pressure
- Heart disease
- Metabolic syndrome
- Parkinson’s disease
- Peyronie’s disease
- Multiple sclerosis
- Sleep disorders
- Use of tobacco, alcohol and illicit drugs
- Use of certain prescription medications including treatments for enlarged or diseased prostrate
- Injuries, illnesses and surgeries affecting the spinal cord and the pelvic area
It is then crucial for patients to inform their doctors about their suspicions regarding underlying medical conditions, their past and present medications, and their use of unhealthy substances, among others.
Of course, there are also psychological causes to erectile dysfunction. This is because the brain (i.e., mind) has a key role in starting the series of physical events leading to an erection with the first event being sexual excitement.
The things that can interfere with the brain’s role in sexual arousal include:
These can be caused by a wide range of factors as well, such as personal and professional problems.
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What Are Its Treatments?
Once your doctor has made a definitive diagnosis of erectile dysfunction, you and your doctor will then discuss the appropriate treatment plan for your case.
Keep in mind that your treatment plan will depend on the cause and severity of your symptoms as well as the treatment of any underlying medical condition.
Your preferences in treatment will even be considered but be sure to discuss the risks and rewards for each type before agreeing to it.
- Oral medications
Doctors usually recommend oral medications as the first line of treatment since these have high rates of efficacy. These medications include sildenafil (Viagra), tadalafil (Cialis) and vardenafil (Staxyn), all of which increase the benefits of nitric oxide in erections.
It must be emphasized that these medications will not immediately result in an erection after intake since sexual stimulation is still necessary. Side effects include nasal congestion, visual changes, and stomach upset, among others, but these can be managed with the right dosage.
- Alprostadil self-injection and urethral suppository
Alprostadil can result in an erection within 10 minutes with the erecting lasting for 30-60 minutes. Side effects include minor bleeding and pain in the injection site.
- Testosterone replacement therapy
This is applicable for men whose low levels of testosterone worsen the symptoms of erectile dysfunction.
- Psychological counselling
While psychological counselling is not a treatment per se, it can alleviate the symptoms of erectile dysfunction as well as lessen the stress on your relationship caused by the medical condition.
Of course, adopting healthy lifestyle habits including a healthy diet and exercise program, avoidance of unhealthy substances, and effective stress management is a must for effective treatment of erectile dysfunction.